María Antonia Lizarraga is responsible for nutrition at Barcelona. He's taken part in a series of conferences this week as part of Barça Sports Science Week organised by the Barça Innovation hub. While there, he spoke to SPORT.
What's your role at FC Barcelona?
I'm responsible for nutrition at the club and have been for nine years. Mainly the first team but also other teams at the club. We work with the medical team and the fitness coaches.
Planning depends on the time of the season. What point are we at now keeping in mind we've just started the campaign?
The first weeks of preseason, except on the tours when we don't get much time, is the moment to try new things. New players arrive, there are tests to check on their condition, and from there we design a plan to help them get in the best possible shape and to maintain it throughout the season.
A lot has been said about Hazard being overweight. Without talking about that case, what must clubs do when things like that happen?
Vacations are a period in which it's normal to see changes, not just because some players may give themselves more of a licence (regarding what they eat) but because there's less physical activity in the off season. But players are professional enough to be able to turn things around in the first weeks of preseason and get back into optimum shape.
A lot is said about the relationship between diet and injury prevention. Is nutrition the magic formula to fight injuries?
We know throughout the season a player can go from optimum form to injured easily. Our objective is to adapt the diet so that players are constantly improving their fitness and don't get injured. Players are more and more aware of certain juices, gelatines and things that can help them. It's important they take that on as a routine to not get injured. Look at the Messi case. At one point in his career he changed his diet to reduce injuries. Usually, if a player gets injured regularly or has a serious injury, they start to ask if there are things that can help them. From there they get into a routine. The important thing is educating yourself.
There are different religions in the dressing room. How does that influence the job?
We have in mind that there are players from different religions, cultures and from all over the world. We have enough resources for that not to be a problem. It's a players' right.
There are also lots of vegan players, like Denis Suarez now.
At our club there are players that at certain moments have chosen a vegan diet, or something similar. In the modern-day, there's no problem with elite players having a vegan diet if they're well advised.
Any curious requests at the club?
The odd coconut drink, gazpacho… if someone particularly likes something, if we feel it's adequate, we think why not give them that enjoyment.
A lot is said about Dembele's diet. Any specific plans with him?
For Dembele and the rest, we offer the maximum help to help them have a good diet at home. There are players that take food from the club home. Every player that has come from outside and that we thought wouldn't improve has made significant changes.
Everyone that's joined the club has improved?